Consequences of Violence Against Women with Disabilities

last updated 4 August 2008

Studies specifically examining the effects and consequences of violence against disabled women are rare. Similar studies of non-disabled women, however, are helpful because the consequences may be similar.  A worldwide study by the UN concerning violence against women noted that women subjected to violence were more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and to report sexual dysfunction, suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress and central nervous system disorders. 

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports on the long-term effects of domestic violence on women.  The study indicates that abused women have a 50% to 70% increase in gynecological, central nervous system, and stress-related problems.

The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace reports that torture victimization can produce a failure to feel pain due to dissociative coping responses the victim has developed in order to survive.  This sensory loss can numb a woman’s response to present day injuries such as burns or cuts, which can lead to infections or ignoring other health issues.  Torture victims may experience chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, or allergies.  Coping with being a victim of abuse can involve self-harming responses as well.  Sexualized and reproductive torture can affect a woman’s opportunity to build intimate relationships. 

The UN has reported studies that indicate that women with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence or rape, but are less likely to obtain police intervention, legal protection, or preventative care.  In a situation where violence is more common, but less punished, society begins to view the crime as less of a problem.  This becomes a cycle and results in an ever-increasing incidence of violence against disabled women.

The Hesperian Foundation has addressed the issue of emotional abuse as it applies to disabled women in particular.  The results are similar to those found for physical abuse.  Disabled women tend to be marginalized in most societies, both because they are women and because they are disabled.  Once a disabled women is abused, she becomes more marginalized, and may even feel ashamed to leave her house.  The emotional abuse will often lead to mental health problems or depression.